by Lisa Curry
One hears how important the family dinner is to the wellbeing of children, especially during adolescence. We’re told that teens whose families make time to sit down and eat dinner together on a frequent, consistent basis are less likely to do drugs and get into trouble with the law.
Back in the days when I freelanced at home or worked part-time and spent lots of time with my kids (sometimes more than my mental health could bear), I didn’t think much about the importance of family dinners. But now that I work full-time and dinner is often the only occasion during the work/school week that my husband and I and our two boys, ages 8 and 10, are all together at once, I value that time to touch base, reconnect, and find out what’s going on in my kids’ lives.
At one recent dinner, I asked my younger son, Sean, about his day at school.
“Mrs. Cox hurt her back and had to leave, and guess who we got for our substitute,” he said. “Nurse Razzano. She’s mean!”
I’d never heard of a school nurse being called in to substitute for a teacher, but perhaps she’d been the best the school could do on little to no notice.
“She’s not that bad,” my older son, Griffin, said. “She loves my hair.”
Griffin has long, wild, curly locks, thanks to DNA inherited from yours truly and the fact that he’s refused to have it cut for the past year.
He added, “She tells me how much she loves my hair every time we have a head-lice check.”
At another recent dinner, I asked Griffin about his day. “Did you go outside for recess, or was it raining?”
“The boys went out, but the girls weren’t allowed.”
“Did the girls do something bad?” I asked.
“No, they had to have a talk about menstruation.”
Probably another of Nurse Razzano's many duties, along with head-lice checks and occasional emergency substitute teaching, I thought.
“What’s menstruation?” Sean asked.
“I’ll tell you what it ISN’T —” my husband said, “— appropriate dinner table conversation!”
Sometimes he’s funnier than the kids. “We’ll talk about it later,” I said.
After we’d eaten and their squeamish father left the table, I explained the menstrual cycle to the boys and answered other questions they posed about the facts of life.
Sean, looking thoughtful, announced, “When I grow up, I want to have sex.”
What do you say to that? Myriad possible responses flitted through my mind.
So do most people…
I’m sure you’ll have plenty of it…
Good luck with that… ?
I settled for, “Well, good, that makes you normal.”
Since my boys aren’t adolescents yet, I can’t tell you if family dinners have kept them off drugs or out of trouble with the law. But in the meantime, family dinners can always be counted on for a laugh.